The German government has signalled during months-long secret talks with the US that it would be prepared to take part in securing a safe zone in northern Syria, Spiegel reports. According to the outlet, Berlin has suggested that the mission of the German Armed Forces, Bundeswehr, in Jordan could be extended for this purpose.
The mandate for a German deployment called "Camp Sonic" to remain at a Jordanian Air Force base in order to counter Daesh expires in October. It includes specially equipped "Tornado" jets that are assisting the US-led anti-Daesh coalition with reconnaissance and aerial refuelling over Syria. However, as the German outlet points out, it is still unclear what assistance the German Air Force can provide for the safe zone.
Spiegel reports that the US has repeatedly unofficially requested that Germany remain involved in Syria since the Munich Security Conference in mid-February. During secret talks of the anti-Daesh coalition’s key members, US acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan reportedly briefed the allies on the US plans for a buffer zone between northern Syria and Turkey in order to protect the Kurds fighting on the American side from both Ankara and Damascus.
The Chancellor’s Office, Foreign Ministry, and Defence Ministry have reportedly agreed that the US should not be alienated over the Syria issue. But as the German government cannot deploy ground troops, Spiegel reports, Berlin has come up with an idea to provide airspace security. The secret negotiations reportedly continued at the highest levels after the conference and involved Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and Germany’s top diplomat Heiko Maas.
Although a consensus might have been reached in the international talks, the notion could face hurdles in Germany. It was earlier agreed within the coalition government of the Christian Democratic Union, the Christian Social Union, and the Social Democrats that the Jordan mission would end in 2019. While the CDU indicated that it could support an extension, the SPD has vehemently rejected the idea.
US forces have been operating in Syria leading an international anti-Daesh coalition, a mission which has not been authorised by either the Syrian government or the UN Security Council. Moreover, Washington has been supporting the Kurdish-led militia controlling the territories to the east of the Euphrates and opposing the Syrian government.
In December 2018, Trump declared that he would withdraw US troops from Syria following the defeat of the Daesh* terrorist group in the Arab country. Later, he claimed that creation of a 30-kilometre buffer zone in northern Syria could protect the Kurds and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from an alleged attack by Turkey. The SDF leadership is spearheaded by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey claims is an arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party. The party has been blacklisted by Ankara as a terrorist organisation.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), a terrorist group banned in Russia and a number of other countries